The World Series of Fighting, an upstart MMA promotion that plans to make Las Vegas its homebase, announced a one-year broadcast contract with the NBC Sports Network at its inaugural press conference Thursday.
WSOF President Ray Sefo, a K-1 kickboxing standout who trains and teaches at Xtreme Couture MMA in Las Vegas, said the promotion will debut live Nov. 3 on NBC Sports from the Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino, with aspirations of holding 8-10 events in the next calendar year.
Former World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight champion Miguel Torres (40-5), who was released from the UFC this summer and has signed a three-fight contract with the new promotion, will headline the Nov. 3 event against an opponent to be determined, said Sefo.
Las Vegas businessman Sid Rogich, who once held a position in the White House under President George H.W. Bush and is a former chairman for the Nevada State Athletic Commission, was announced as the company’s chief executive officer.
Keith Evans, who’s worked for the UFC and the now defunct International Fight League, will serve as chief of operations. Ali Abdel-Aziz, who manages former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, will share matchmaking duties with Sefo.
The WSOF has a multi-event venue deal in place with Caesar’s Entertainment Corporation, the parent entity to Planet Hollywood, Sefo told SI.com.
“I 100 percent guarantee all the events will be in Las Vegas in the next year,” he said.
The WSOF has been in the works for at least a year and a half, when it quietly began approaching prospects to compete in elimination tournaments in multiple weight divisions with ridiculous $1,000,000 grand prizes.
But Sefo said the promotion’s first year of events won’t follow that ambitious tournament-style format.
“The tournaments were a consideration and that was the initial plan,” said Sefo, who explained the organization opted for the single-fight format most familiar with fans. The promotion plans to revisit tournament-style events after its first year.
The WSOF will have its work cut out for it in the fighter acquisitions department, as Zuffa LLC, which promotes the UFC, has roughly 90 percent of the world’s top-tier MMA athletes, as well as a majority of mid-tier talent, currently under contract. Zuffa has also established a strong presence in Las Vegas since the company’s formation in 2001, after local casino owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta purchased the UFC from its former owners for $2 million and built it into property valued at nearly $1 billion a couple of years ago.
Sefo said the WSOF has no designs to compete with the industry leader.
“I truly believe there’s enough talent out there, especially internationally, that hasn’t been seen in the States yet,” Sefo said.
Sefo said WSOF officials have successfully reached out to UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta and President Dana White to pave the way for a smooth co-existence in Las Vegas.
Ten-time UFC welterweight veteran Josh Burkman (23-9) and Gregor Gracie (7-2), of the famed Brazilian jiu-jitsu dynasty that launched the sport in the States, are also scheduled to compete separately on Nov. 3. Former WWE and TNA pro wrestler Bobby Lashley (7-2), who competed twice in Strikeforce’s heavyweight division in 2010, was also announced as a participant.
Sefo said that with the exclusion of Torres, all fighters announced to the promotion Thursday have signed exclusive three and four-fight contracts with the organization. Torres will honor a one-fight contract he signed prior with Titan Fighting Championships, said Sefo, in addition to his three-fight agreement with the WSOF.
-- Loretta Hunt